Ex 12 & 13 E : Ground - Air - Ground
Circuit Training
Circuit Emergencies Lesson Briefing

Circuit training should entrench habits in you so that you are always mentally prepared for the task ahead.

During circuit training (and once qualified), the last thing you do, after all your aircraft checks and before you enter the runway is to give a pre-take-off briefing, even if it is only to yourself. It is a briefing on what to do in the event of any emergencies during or shortly after takeoff, and covers what you will do in the unlikely event of such an emergency.

The reason you go to all this trouble is so that it is fresh in your mind what you will do, so that if an emergency was to occur, the decision of what you will do has already been made, saving you precious seconds. It is prudent to always plan for the worst, but expect the best. Circuit training is where you entrench these potentially life saving habits.

A pre-take-off briefing might go something like this:

In the event of any engine abnormality on the runway, I will bring the aircraft to a halt and vacate the runway.

In the event of any engine abnormality after TAKEOFF and with sufficient runway ahead, I will maintain the best glide speed of _____ kts/mph,take flap as required and land the aircraft.

In the event of any engine abnormality after takeoff with insufficient runway ahead, I will maintain the best glide speed of _____ kts/mph, look for a field within 30o either side of the aircraft. If time permits, I look for fault, such as mixture rich, fuel pump on (if applicable), switch tanks, (if applicable), take flap as required and perform final emergency checks:
--> Mags off;
--> Doors open;
--> Fuel off;
--> Master off;
and land.

If you are doing circuit training and have an instructor on board, you may say that in the event of any such emergencies the instructor will be in control.

Remember,always follow ANC
whether during circuit training or any other part of flight.

Circuit Training: Abandoned take-off

Circuit training cannot fully prepare you, but still, events that may cause you to abandon your takeoff are likely to be very obvious to you if they happen, such as:
1. Engine abnormalities - if your engine surges; if your revs haven't come up as far as they should; if your engine is running rough; 2. Control problems - if you lose directional control; 3. Instrument issues -if your airspeed doesn't come alive; 4. External issues - pedestrians or animals crossing the runway; bird strike; aircraft not vacated ahead; door or hatch opens.

The actions you will take are likely to be almost instinctive:

  • close your throttle
  • Apply your brakes as required
  • Vacate the runway
  • Advise ATC

    Your instructor may not create a potential real emergency during circuit training, but he/she may close the throttle.

    Circuit Training: Engine failure after take-off - EFATO

    Although this is an unlikely event, it is possible. Exactly where your engine fails will determine the amount of time you have and if you have enough to look for a fault. Your first and most important task is to FLY THE AIRCRAFT! There is a story of a cockpit with three pilots where some minor electrical emergency occured. They were all so excited and focused on the emergency that nobody flew the aircraft, and they crashed - unnecessarily. ALWAYS fly the aircraft. If you think it is hopeless, fly the aircraft anyway.While you are still breathing, you still have a chance. Make the best decisions you know how.

    The very first thing you do if your engine fails after take-off is PRESERVE YOUR AIRSPEED.

    Airspeed is what keeps you flying as opposed to falling.
    > LOWER YOUR NOSE to keep airflow over the wings, and keep your aircraft flying.
    > TRIM for your best glide speed
    > LANDING FIELD select a spot 30o left or to the right of your nose
    > FLAP - as required
    > FUEL PUMP on (if applicable)
    > SWITCH TANKS (if applicable)
    > TRY POWER, (maybe you can limp around the circuit and land, maybe you will have full power), if no go, then:
    > DOORS open
    > PASSENGER brace
    > SIDESLIP if required or use flap to lose height as required
    > MAYDAY MAYDAY MAYDAY call if time permits
    > LAND at your slowest safe airspeed

    NEVER NEVER NEVER turn back to the field. Your aircraft will descend at least 500ft in a 180o turn. If this is all the height you have, you have none left to get you back to the airfield. It is always better to land into wind, so choose a spot, sensibly, within 30o either side of you current heading and aim to land at the slowest possible speed.

    If you still have runway available after an engine failure, close your power, nose down, put down all your flaps or as necessary, and land on the remaining runway, even if you run off the end.

    If you are past the runway and you have an engine failure you have to make a decision with the limited choices you have. From my home airport I have the following choices: after take-off on runway 23, if there was an engine failure I would have to choose the pine tree forest, the cut down pine trees, or a dirt track in the cut down plantation. Otherwise there is a dirt fire break on a steep uphill separating the township from the plantation.

    In the other direction I have a crocodile and hippo infested lake that has already buried an aircraft, a mangrove swamp, a suburb and a significant road.

    For the former I would choose the pine plantation or the dirt track depending on my height at the failure. (The tree stumps would rip out my undercarriage and fling me hard). For the trees I would stall just above them and drop down into them as if one has forward motion when your undercarriage catches the tree tops you will be flicked over.

    For the latter I would aim for the lake edge and hope the crocs and hippo are not where I land. Other than that, depending on height, I might choose a school sports field.

    None of these choices are great, but they are all survivable.

    Circuit Training: The Go-Around

    The go-around is often underplayed in circuit training, but it is vital.

    There are a few reasons you may have to do a go-around. Perhaps there is a crosswind that is out of the aircraft's limits, or beyond your current ability or comfort zone. Perhaps elephants or cattle wandered onto your airstrip. Perhaps you were uncomfortable with your approach speed, or you were too high / low / off centreline/ too fast. Perhaps your undercarriage didn't extend. Perhaps the pilot who landed infront of you is dawdling on the runway and you haven't been given clearance to land.

    Whatever the reason, here's how you do it:
    1. Apply FULL power and level off
    2. Fly on the ride of the runway where the circuit is not
    3. Immediately get rid of your DIRTY/DRAG flap - this is flap that is anything more than 20-25o as this flap assists more with slowing you down than anything else.
    4. Check safe airspeed, 20o to 10o STOP, check safe airspeed
    5. Begin climbing away, do your after take-off checks as normal.

    If you have a more powerful engine and are able to climb away with more flap, you can get away with rotating to the climb and cleaning up your flap smartly, but it is always better to err on the side of safety and remain cautious cleaning your flap up in stages.

    I once flew a light aircraft that had a nasty wing drop at the stall after it came out of the re-build. It was in the shop for a re-build because a pilot who had duffed up his own aircraft used the schools aircraft, did a g-around and dumped all his flap in one go. This resulted in an un-graceful drop to the ground and 8 months in the workshop for the aircraft to be repaired.

    Remember exercise 4, where your instructor showed you what flap does? He/she applied full flap in one go, and the nose pitched rapidly to the heavens and climbed 100-200ft. He/she then dumped all the flap in one foul swoop before the aircraft stalled. The nose dropped like a stone, as did the aircraft-> 100-200ft. At 3000ft AGL you didn't really notice how far 100-200ft was. I promise you you will notice when you are only 100ft off the asphalt! DON'T DUMP FLAP... raise it in stages.

    Your circuit training may not teach you that it is not possible to do a go-around at every strip. Some strips do not allow the luxury of a go-around. It is best to do a bush training course before attempting landing at strips like these.

    Go from Ex 12 & 13 E, Circuit Training Emergencies, back to the Lesson Briefings Overview

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